Cardiff’s pre-season opener against Harlequins on Saturday is an early opportunity for players to put down a marker in the race for selection ahead of the new campaign, according to Dai Young.
The clash in London is the first in a double-header of Anglo-Welsh pre-season encounters for the Blue and Blacks, with Young set to name his side at mid-day on Friday.
The director has been delighted with his side’s progress during pre-season but is now excited to finally get down to business on the field, with no bigger test to prepare for the new season than taking on the English champions at Twickenham Stoop.
“We haven’t got any of our internationals involved because it’s obviously still a little bit too early,” explained the former Wales international.
“So this gives the players that have been here since the word ‘go’ in pre-season an opportunity to put their hand up.
“They’re really excited but we’re not quite sure what side Quins will put out but I’m sure it’ll be a test for us.
“They had a great season last season and I’m sure their confidence is high right across the squad. You don’t win Championships as a team, you win it as a squad.
“So it will be a great test for us and all the running, the hard work, the preparations comes to a point where everyone just wants to get out on the field and see where we are. We’re no different.
“You just want to see improvement right across the board. The first thing I want to do is make sure that everybody knows their roles and responsibilities. That’s not just in terms of players but staff as well.
“We need everyone pulling in the same direction. We’ve haven’t been higher than seventh in 10 years, which is not good enough.
“We know the league will get tougher again with the South Africans coming on board but we must strive to improve.
“The expectancy will always be there but we must be pushing the standards, which should help us to come somewhere near fulfilling our potential.”
It was announced earlier today that back row James Botham is ruled out of the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery during the summer.
However, Young has been boosted as the likes of Shane Lewis-Hughes, Garyn Smith and Will Boyde all return to contention following lengthy spells on the sidelines.
Young is naturally disappointed for Wales international Botham, but is encouraged by the depth of the back row division at the Arms Park.
“It’s part and parcel of the game, isn’t it? Of course it’s frustrating but it’s something you get used to,” adds the director of rugby.
“There are very few occasions when boys go on representative tours and come back with a clean bill of health with everybody.
“That’s why you’ve got a squad and it’s something we’re used to. You get disappointed for the player but unfortunately it’s part and parcel of professional sports.
“But you look at our options in the back row and Shane Lewis-Hughes is in there and is back, fit and firing.
“But there’s also Josh Turnbull, who had an excellent season and forced his way into the Welsh set-up.
“Will Boyde is back as well, and even though he didn’t play much last season, but the previous season he was one of our best players. You can chuck Navs into that mix as well!
“When I came here, everyone spoke about the great back row options but unfortunately none of them were ever fit.
“So all of our back row players know, first and foremost, before they even think about anything else, that they must make sure they get into the Cardiff team and if they take their eye off the ball there then everything else will fall over for them.”